Cultural ties between Scotland and China have been strengthened through a series of agreements overseen by First Minister Alex Salmond.
Mr Salmond, in China as part of a government delegation, said the links are helping to open doors between the countries, bringing “lasting benefits”.
His visit coincides with the arrival at Edinburgh Zoo of two giant pandas, loaned from China.
Mr Salmond met Chinese vice-premier Li Keqiang to discuss further business links, and personally thanked him for sending the pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang.
The first of three memorandums of understanding commits the governments in Beijing and Edinburgh to greater exchange and collaboration across the arts, heritage and national collections.
Mr Salmond also witnessed the signing of an agreement on the arts between Edinburgh International Festival and the China International Culture Association.
Historic Scotland and China’s state administration of cultural heritage formally adopted a plan to digitally map the historic Eastern Qing Tombs, an ancient resting place for Chinese emperors.
Mr Salmond is on his third trip to China, having already discussed ways to strengthen links with China’s minister of culture, Cai Wu.
The First Minister said: “Since I met Mr Cai last year, the opportunities for increasing the scope and level of cultural exchanges between our two nations have multiplied.
“Across a wide range of cultural and heritage activities, doors are swinging open, enabling people in both countries to discover more about our respective cultures.
“These links add value to educational, scientific and business activities that can bring lasting benefits to Scotland and to China.”
Mr Salmond said the loan of the pandas, and other cultural exchanges, will help to “enhance mutual understanding”.
The National Ballet of China and Shanghai Peking Opera Troupe performed in Edinburgh this year. In 2009, Scottish Ballet toured China.
To mark the new agreement on culture and the arts, Scottish Opera and students from Beijing No 4 School performed an opera, Tale O Tam, based on the Burns poem Tam O’Shanter.
Jonathan Mills, director of the Edinburgh International Festival, said: “Having introduced festival audiences in Edinburgh to the stunning, astonishing and articulate performances of the National Ballet of China and the Shanghai Peking Opera Troupe in Festival 2011, we wish to maintain artistic links with China and deepen our relationship with this incredibly rich, diverse and profoundly important culture.”
Scottish Opera general director Alex Reedijk said: “Our work with No 4 School this week is a great illustration of the cultural collaboration our countries aspire to.
“We’ve been able to share our best practice in arts education, built up over 40 years, and have been impressed by the pupils’ commitment to achieving so much in such a short period of time.”